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Utah legislature shoots down LGBT anti-discrimination measure

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Utah state sealMarriage equality may be coming to Utah as a pro-equal marriage district court ruling is considered by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals this spring, but the state’s overwhelmingly Republican legislature isn’t looking to make any other accommodations for LGBT individuals in the state.  The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the death of a non-discrimination bill sponsored by Republican state senator Steve Urquhart:

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans in a private meeting voted overwhelmingly not to consider Urquhart’s anti-discrimination measure, with Urquhart casting the only vote to hear the bill and more than 20 Republican senators voting against him.

Urquhart acknowledged that the Senate vote likely means his bill is dead for the session, “barring some significant, unforeseen event.”

Several hundred of blue notes were stuck to the Senate doors demanding lawmakers “Hear SB100.”

It seems, however, that there was a bit of a twist to the legislature’s decision, courtesy of Gene Schaerr, the outside attorney who has been hired to defend Amendment 3, Utah’s marriage equality ban, in court this spring:

A Democratic state senator called for the immediate resignation of the attorney hired to defend Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying a reported deal with a conservative think tank has created a serious ethical breach that makes it impossible for him to represent Utahns with fidelity.

Sen. Jim Dabakis said that the advice from Gene Schaerr to Republican legislators played a key role in killing a statewide non-discrimination bill before it got a hearing and questioned whether Schaerr did so at the behest of The Sutherland Institute, which has said it has hired Schaerr as a fellow.

“It’s a very serious conflict of interest and I think he should resign immediately and the attorney general’s office should disclose [what the arrangement was],” Dabakis said in an interview Wednesday with The Tribune.

According to the Tribune, Schaerr told Republican leaders in the state house and senate not to take up any bills pertaining to LGBT rights because doing so might show animus that would harm the state’s defense of Amendment 3.

Along with the non-discrimination measure killed yesterday were other bills that would have reiterated churches’ ability not to perform marriages for same-sex couples and other legislation related to religious protection.


  • 1. Pat  |  February 6, 2014 at 8:37 am

    I think there are still 33 states without any employment non-discrimination law. Are these exactly the same 33 states which do not have marriage equality? Or are there actually any marriage equality states where you can be fired for being gay?

  • 2. ebohlman  |  February 6, 2014 at 10:36 am

    All the marriage equality states have ENDA-type laws, as do CO, OR, and WI (and maybe NV).

  • 3. sfbob  |  February 6, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Yes, NV does as well. Their law includes gender identity and expression as well as sexual orientation. Hard to understand how they can square that with not allowing marriage equality.

  • 4. sfbob  |  February 6, 2014 at 8:42 am

    "According to the Tribune, Schaerr told Republican leaders in the state house and senate not to take up any bills pertaining to LGBT rights because doing so might show animus that would harm the state’s defense of Amendment 3."

    So the Senate Republicans figured that killing an LGBT rights bill would NOT be evidence of animus. That's just brilliant.

  • 5. Steve  |  February 6, 2014 at 10:44 am

    No one has ever accused Republicans of being intelligent.

  • 6. StraightDave  |  February 6, 2014 at 10:56 am

    They must have figured that voting to not vote on the bill wouldn't look as bad as actually voting to reject it outright — or more likely, that fewer people would notice.

    Re: Schaerr's loyalties – would he listen to the folks that paid him $200K or those who paid him $2M?

    Seems there's more interesting stuff going on in the sideshow now than in the actual lawsuit.

  • 7. palerobber  |  February 6, 2014 at 11:28 am

    in a warped way it makes sense…
    they'd rather take a hit for killing the bill than risk having some dumbass(es) from their caucus have a Chris Buttars moment during floor debate.

  • 8. grod  |  February 6, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    SLTribune: "70% of the public favour protecting housing and employment rights of sexual minorities" :

  • 9. Jay  |  February 6, 2014 at 8:56 am

    He is afraid of what the House members would say about gay people and why we don't deserve equal rights if they are allowed to speak freely..

  • 10. Bruno71  |  February 6, 2014 at 11:00 am

    This. Utah Republicans have gone into full sweep-it-under-the-rug mode.

  • 11. StraightDave  |  February 6, 2014 at 11:10 am

    There's not enough rugs and brooms in all of Utah for that Herculean task. I think they've gone into full freak-out mode because at least some of them may actually realize the jig is up and they have no idea how this new world order is gonna play out. But they made this bed.

  • 12. Bruno71  |  February 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    All the characterizations of "San Francisco" or "Left Coast" politics have come to bite them in the ass. By creating an "other" world where things like the gays can marry each other, and where "that don't happen here," they really shot themselves in the foot. They allowed themselves to be blindsided, because they made themselves blind on purpose.

  • 13. Rose  |  February 6, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Killing these bills STILL shows ANIMUS towards Gays and Lesbians no matter if they can see it or not……what they really are afraid of is their words coming back to bite them……….it must suck to be them and afraid of something that DOESN'T affect them!!!

  • 14. palerobber  |  February 6, 2014 at 11:47 am

    if Gene Schaerr is worried about animus he should probably advise the state to fire him over his association with the Sutherland Institute.

  • 15. Rick O.  |  February 6, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Schaerr's advice is very sound, and I don't see NOM press conferences or wing nut rallies that could lead to violence, either. Will be interesting to see if sweeping under rug extends to courthouse steps demonstrations in Denver April 10 & 17. But the Sutherland Institute tie is probably going to get somebody at the AGs office in trouble eventually. I presume SOMEBODY in Utah has filed FOIA requests for any and all communications between Sutherland and state officials?

  • 16. Zack12  |  February 6, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    The biggest problem for their side is their animus is already on the record. Killing this bill isn't going to hide the language used against us at the time or since then.

  • 17. palerobber  |  February 6, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    speaking of the Sutherland Institute, here's an interesting statement from its president, Paul Mero, written in reponse to a pro-marriage op-ed in WSJ by Andrew Sullivan in 2003…

    "[Sullivan] asks, 'On what grounds do conservatives believe that discouraging responsibility is a good thing …?' I might ask, on what grounds does he think a law makes someone responsible, especially a positive right like marriage?"

    doesn't this directly contradict the state's central argument in their appeal? (i.e. that an exclusionary marriage law will make heteros more responsible)

  • 18. palerobber  |  February 6, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    …in the same piece, Mero adds:
    "[W]here is the proof that marriage encourages monogamy?"

  • 19. Zack12  |  February 6, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    And in other news, both Kansas and Arizona are pushing "religious freedom" bills aka a license to discriminate against the lgbt community.
    Under this law, country clerks can refuse to sign licenses if their religious beliefs don't allow, refuse to process tax forms and other things for gay and lesbian couples, the list goes on and on.
    As it is, if it passes gays and lesbians could be shut out of government services entirely in Kansas.

  • 20. sfbob  |  February 6, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I can't imagine how such laws could possibly withstand a constitutional challenge. Even the potential for an identifiable group (or groups) of citizens being denied government services which are available to others should sound some serious alarms even among the more conservative justices.

  • 21. Zack12  |  February 6, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    I don't either but look at the voter id laws as well as all the abortion bans.
    Never assume Romer V Evans is enshrined forever, we need to be ready to file lawsuits asap.

  • 22. Mackenzie  |  February 7, 2014 at 7:45 am

    What Circuit us AZ in? I can only figure that KS is doing so for fear of what will come down the pipe if the battle in OK comes down the way we would like. Their Hate isn't prepared to deal with that. Though I will say that there is a good chance the KS bill will not make it to the gov's desk. AZ I have no clue about

  • 23. Seth From Maryland  |  February 7, 2014 at 7:59 am

    9th circuit

  • 24. JimT  |  February 6, 2014 at 1:50 pm

    The religious right is beginning to see the writing on the wall for marriage equality so I think the next wave of litigation will be against the “religious freedom/liberty” discrimination laws some GOP lawmakers are attempting to pass such as:

    AZ Senate Bill 1062

    Oregon’s anti-gay segregation referendum “giving business owners a “right of conscience” to refuse gay people service”

    Kansas’s “bill would block lawsuits or government sanctions against individuals, groups and businesses refusing on religious grounds to recognize same-sex marriages or declining to provide goods, services, accommodations or benefits to gay couples.”

    Under the banner of the First Amendment, conservative legal groups have filed lawsuits arguing that same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws violate their religious liberty.

  • 25. Zack12  |  February 6, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    The one thing that does help out is once again, many of the bigots can't keep their mouths shut.
    This is clearly targeting one group and one group only, the LGBT community.

  • 26. Bruno71  |  February 6, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    As heinous as we find these laws, they more clearly delineate the fears of those who have fought against marriage equality laws til now. The question of an individual's religious freedoms vs. the equal protections of a vulnerable minority are indeed more to the point. Which is why they should step out of the way on the marriage question altogether and focus on this more specific issue, but obviously won't.

  • 27. JimT  |  February 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    MSNBC just did a story on the Kansas anti gay discrimination bill, House Bill 2453, which passed through Kansas’ House Federal and State Affairs Committee today.

    I really wish some lawyers would challenge the tax exemptions that churches and anti-gay PACs are getting because they are raising a lot of dollars and I've heard their organizers are getting much of the money for salaries. And from what I understand "tax exempt" churches are not supposed to be involved in politics at all but quite a few of them are.

  • 28. Zack12  |  February 6, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    If they couldn't do in Minnesota where the Archibishop was making dvds telling people to vote for the ban, they won't do it here.

  • 29. Mike in Baltimore  |  February 6, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    The closer we get to winning (or the antis and bigots get to losing), the louder and more vicious they get.

    The 'religious liberty' laws seem to be in that scenario – blatant attempts to keep up the bigotry through other means, somewhat similar to the segregation laws in the South after slavery was outlawed. Any wonder why so many whites in the South supported the apartheid laws in South Africa?

  • 30. Zack12  |  February 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Indeed, these are the Jim Crow laws being appilied to the LGBT community.

  • 31. JimT  |  February 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I also think that bigotry and hate are becoming an lucrative industry as there seems to be a lot of fundraising being done by so many PACs. And since they can't win on some things here, they are globalizing their anti-gay agendas. They've gone to Uganda and to Russia with their phony studies and rhetoric.

  • 32. Zack12  |  February 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    It is indeed, the heads of NOM have made over six figures each the past few years.

  • 33. Lymis  |  February 7, 2014 at 8:47 am

    I honestly won't be surprised if future generations don't look back at this process as the beginning of the end of all tax benefits for churches, and the point at which the government began to understand that the tax exemptions were a form of government subsidy.

    The religious right, by demanding that their religious views trump civil constitutional guarantees, are setting the stage for losing all the exceptions they currently have, and they really don't see it.

  • 34. Eric  |  February 7, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    It has already begun.

  • 35. StraightDave  |  February 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    'bout effin time!

    There are far too many religious people and orgs who really think they deserve special treatment because they are god's ambassadors on Earth. And few politicians had the balls to stand up to them. You want to see the whining really start? Cases like this will do it.

  • 36. palerobber  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:52 am

    == What I Learned from the Sutherland Institute, Part 1 ==

    I learned that gays can be dehumanized by reducing their loving relationships to sex acts.

    The following are direct quotes from officially published and copyrighted material at

    "sexual orientation is a myth to me; homosexuality is really all about an act"

    "The myth [of sexual orientation] is used to explain away the personal despair and heartache associated with childhood abuses and/or uncontrolled physical appetites"

    "homosexuality is not love; it is an intrinsically selfish sexual expression – hardly equal to Christ-like expressions of love"

    "Gay rights, to me anyway, are all about codifying a sex act. It is not about affirming the human dignity of anyone […] That gay rights are much more than a sex act is disingenuous"

  • 37. palerobber  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:53 am

    more examples…

    "[Andrew] Sullivan speaks of 'gay citizen.' So what is that to me? A citizen who has same-sex sodomy. Why do I need to know that about this citizen?"

    "all you are telling me is that now you want to have Social Security benefits go to your companion, NOT because he cared for you for 50 years, but because you have sex with him"

    "Kneeling on the Supreme Court steps proposing marriage, please! … you and I both know that the two of them were probably unfaithful to each other three hours later at [a DC bathhouse]!"

  • 38. palerobber  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:55 am

    == What I Learned from the Sutherland Institute, Part 2 ==

    I learned that gays are inferior, disordered, and sociopathic.

    The following are direct quotes from officially published and copyrighted material at

    "homosexuality, in its entirety, is some sort of social pathology"

    "homosexuality is a social dysfunction, if not a personal sexual dysfunction"

    "homosexuality, in whatever manifestation, including gay marriage, is inherently dysfunctional."

    "Homosexual sodomy is innately a selfish act."

    "If there is an overwhelming desire at play in the homosexual life, it is selfishness"

    "Homosexuality is the selfish love, perhaps even narcissism, among people struggling with a peculiar sin."

  • 39. palerobber  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:56 am

    more examples…

    "The composite gay movement is nothing more than a collective needy psyche expressed publicly"

    "At its emotional core is the homosexual’s desire for approbation. At its societal core is the homosexual’s innate selfishness. And at its public policy core is the homosexual’s conceptual void regarding progress and civilization."

    "[sexual orientation] is used as a tool to abandon personal accountability."

    "I think I can easily explain (as I think I have) how [homosexuality] is detrimental to society"

    "I do think a hate crime against a Jewish family is more damaging to society than an anti-gay hate crime."

  • 40. palerobber  |  February 7, 2014 at 10:59 am

    == What I Learned from the Sutherland Institute, Part 3 ==

    I learned that homosexuality is comparable to a host of vices and illegal activities.

    The following are direct quotes from officially published and copyrighted material at

    "Think of what many Americans, led by delusional youth, now go to the mat over: sodomy, narcotics, liquor, pornography, gambling and smoking pot."

    "why is it good public policy to codify this dysfunction? Just because you say it exists? So do drug addicts exist … should we legalize drugs?"

    "you seem to think that homosexual monogamous “marriages” are somehow morally superior to, say, incest […] whereas I see no moral difference."

    "where is the evidence of orientation? That two men have sex together? That’s a slippery slope upon which to argue and it is the point at which you’ll hear comparisons to bestiality, incest, and any other sort of oddity that can be claimed as an orientation."

  • 41. palerobber  |  February 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

    == What I Learned from the Sutherland Institute, Conclusion ==

    If the Sutherland Institute's Gene Schaerr is concerned about animus, he should resign from the state of Utah's legal team.

  • 42. sfbob  |  February 7, 2014 at 11:10 am

    The bottom line to all of this: Schaerr's time and legal expertise have been bought and paid for by an organization that merely disagree with marriage equality. The Sutherland Institute does not even care to grant gay men and lesbians the basic civil rights accorded to heterosexual citizens in other areas.

    Thanks you, palerobber, for digging into this ugly pit of hatred.

  • 43. bayareajohn  |  February 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Sutherland's documented animus ought to be admissible at trial in conjunction with the legislative history, as Utah has bowed to Sutherland's leadership, choice of counsel, direction of defense, and funding on the case.

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